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Summary

Summary

Over the course of his career, New York Times bestselling novelist Chris Bohjalian has taken readers on a spectacular array of journeys. Midwives brought us to an isolated Vermont farmhouse on an icy winter's night and a home birth gone tragically wrong. The Double Bind perfectly conjured the Roaring Twenties on Long Island--and a young social worker's descent into madness. And Skeletons at the Feast chronicled the last six months of World War Two in Poland and Germany with nail-biting authenticity. As The Washington Post Book World has noted, Bohjalian writes "the sorts of books people stay awake all night to finish." In his fifteenth book, The Sandcastle Girls , he brings us on a very different kind of journey. This spellbinding tale travels between Aleppo, Syria, in 1915 and Bronxville, New York, in 2012--a sweeping historical love story steeped in the author's Armenian heritage, making it his most personal novel to date. When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke College, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The First World War is spreading across Europe, and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There, Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo to join the British Army in Egypt, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.Flash forward to the present, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents' ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed the "Ottoman Annex," Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura's grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family's history that reveals love, loss--and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.


Author Notes

Chris Bohjalian graduated from Amherst College and worked as an account representative for J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in New York in the mid-1980s. His first novel, A Killing in the Real World, was released in 1988. His other novels include Water Witches, The Law of Similars, Before You Know Kindness, Skeletons at the Feast, and The Night Strangers. Past the Bleachers and Midwives were made into Hallmark Hall of Fame movies and Secrets of Eden was made into a Lifetime Television movie. He won the New England Book Award in 2002. He also contributes to numerous publications including Cosmopolitan, Reader's Digest, Boston Globe Sunday Magazine and the Burlington Free Press. (Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Between April 1915 and April 1916, one and one-half million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire during WWI. Bohjalian uses this as the backdrop for his new novel. Elizabeth Endicott accompanies her father to Aleppo, Syria, to bring aid to the Armenian deportees. While there, Elizabeth meets Armen Petrosian, an Armenian engineer working for the Germans and searching for his wife and child, though certain they are already dead. In spite of the loss and horror around them, they fall desperately in love. The story is told through the eyes of Laura Petrosian, Elizabeth and Armen's great-granddaughter. After seeing an exhibit of photographs of the Armenian victims, she discovers letters and photos and begins to piece her great-grandparents' story together. Soon the slaughter you know next to nothing about takes over her life, and she makes profound discoveries about her ancestors and herself. This is a powerful and moving story based on real events seldom discussed. It will leave you reeling.--Dickie, Elizabeth Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Bohjalian's powerful newest (after The Night Strangers) depicts the Armenian genocide and one contemporary novelist's quest to uncover her heritage. In 1915, Bostonian Elizabeth Endicott arrives at a compound in Aleppo, Syria, to provide humanitarian aid to Armenian refugees. A fresh-faced nurse just out of college, Elizabeth has learned only rudimentary Armenian, but soon befriends Armen Petrosian, an engineer who lost his wife and daughter during the chaos of the deportations and mass murders. Though Armen departs for Egypt to fight with the British Army in WWI, their relationship blossoms into an epistolary romance. The atrocities of the genocide and the First World War continue, and Bohjalian spares no detail in his gritty descriptions. Nearly a century later, Laura Petrosian is living in the suburbs of New York City when a friend alerts her to a possible photo of her grandmother being used to advertise an exhibit about "the Slaughter You Know Next to Nothing About." As she explores her past, Laura discovers that what she once considered to be her grandparents' eccentricities-their living room was dubbed the "Ottoman Annex"-speak to a rich and tragic history. Though the action occasionally feels far-off, Bohjalian's storytelling makes this a beautiful, frightening, and unforgettable read. Agent: Jane Gelfman, Gelfman Schneider. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Repeatedly (and embarrassingly accurately) referred to here as "The Slaughter You Know Next to Nothing About," the Armenian genocide of 1915-16 takes center stage in Bohjalian's (The Night Strangers) intergenerational novel. Elizabeth Endicott, a recent Mount Holyoke graduate, accompanies her Bostonian banker father on his philanthropic mission to Aleppo, Syria, to aid Armenian refugees fleeing atrocities committed by the Ottoman government. Her friendship with Armenian engineer Armen, who has lost his wife and baby daughter, flourishes when they are apart and can only communicate in letters. Years later, Laura Petrosian, seeking out a photograph of a woman rumored to be her Armenian grandmother, uncovers these letters among a wealth of documents-a treasure trove for an Armenian American novelist searching for pieces of her family history. VERDICT Bohjalian powerfully narrates an intricately nuanced romance with a complicated historical event at the forefront. With the centennial of the Armenian genocide fast approaching, this is not to be missed. Simply astounding.-Julie Kane, Sweet Briar Coll. Lib., VA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


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